Thursday, April 26, 2012

What's Love Got to Do With It?

Our texts for this fourth Sunday in Easter are John 10:11-18, Acts 4:32-35, and 1 John 3:16-24. Read them here, and I also encourage you to take in the complexity and beauty of the depiction of Acts 4 from the St. John's Bible pictured at right, entitled "Life in Community."

Who knew Tina Turner was a theologian?  In her hit song she asked the poignant question that gives our blog today its title, "What's love got to do with it?"  This could easily be a subtitle of John's Gospel, a Gospel that claims life together in community has EVERYTHING to do with love.  We learn early on from John that God's great action in Jesus was motivated by deep love:  "For God so loved the world..." John 3:16 famously begins an explanation of why Jesus was sent to earth to embody God among us.

John 10, however, marks an important point in the story of love as well:  here, for the first time, love is tightly linked with Jesus' decision to lay down his life, in verse 17.  The "because" here does not mean that God's love for Jesus depends on him laying down his life, but rather that it is because of the deep link of love flowing between Jesus and his Father that Jesus chooses to lay down his life freely.  Love, it seems, is the motivating factor in this sacrifice--not just God's love for the world, but Jesus' love for both God and the world.  This will be reiterated by Jesus both in his words to his disciples on the night he chooses to lay his life down quite literally--"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends" (John 15:12-13)--and in his prayerful words to God just before his arrest--"I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:23).  

Echoes of Jesus' prayer for love to prevail and link the people together show up in the way the early Christians are described in Acts 4:32--"Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul."  What's love got to do with this--with the radical life these early Christians lived out in relationship with one another and God?

As we continue to consider our "You are my witnesses" theme for Easter--what it means for us to be witnesses of the resurrection, of what God has done in Christ--it is our question as well:  What's love got to do with it?  How does our love for others impact the ways we choose to bear witness in word and deed.  And, just as significantly, what does our love for God have to do with it?  It seems that simply loving one another is not enough--a greater Love, the love that was shown between God and Christ in which we are now invited to participate, must also be present.

So though it sounds obvious, it's really a tricky question:  What's love got to do with the way we bear witness?

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

I'm not sure I get it (maybe not enough Tina Turner music in my life to date).

Love seems like the motivation described in these passages, yes? So it should be our motivation for bearing witness (in the embodied, engaged way you described so well last week). Okay, gotcha. I think I'm missing something in your question, though, and I'm trying to find it. Maybe you're getting at the direction and degree. To whom are we bearing witness (generic everybody, anyone who happens to be watching or nearby, family, close friends, aquaintences, etc.)? As to degree, do I continue to "bear witness" to those that reject me or cause trouble for me and those I love most (there's degrees to that, too)? For how long? While I could - on my best days - imagine giving up my life for my friends, I'm pretty sure loving my neighbor as myself is a little different in direction and degree, too. I can bear witness over here, behind this sturdy wall, yeah?

Like I said, I think I'm not understanding something here.